Several years ago I began making a gratitude list…simply a list of what I appreciated.
Oprah inspired me, mentors inspired me, and I knew if people I respected did it, it might help me. I had begun to realize that life didn’t just happen. If I wanted to change my life it was up to me. I had to do something different. With a lot of hope, a lot of support and my brand new journal I wrote a list. Something that I could do and would do…a sure “win”. It looked something like this:
I’m grateful for this new day.
I’m grateful for my healthy family.
I’m grateful for my home.
These were true, but not as heartfelt as my gratitude list is now. Over time my list has led me to feel an awareness of my emotions; and as I expressed myself I began to feel grateful in a very different way.
I remember the first time I was conscious of feeling sad. Conscious. Not a captive feeling powerless. Depression had become way too familiar and to feel sadness was new for me. Until then feelings had been words; not an emotion in my body. The gift of gratitude led me to feel my emotions and express myself.
I realized I could be grateful to be feeling my emotions. Connecting my heart to my body. No longer living disconnected from my body.
For many years depression was the foundation of my emotions. That day I realized I was FEELING pain, I was so relieved. So with fascination and a bit of delight, I explored this new place. I FELT it. No longer a soulful immobility but a discomfort in my chest, fluttering; a shadow on my heart. No longer a place that held me captive. No more.
I realized that feelings could be simple. When I wrote SADNESS it was simply a word. I considered that maybe the drama and the emotional complexity could be tempered. Could I learn to observe my thoughts, emotions and how they felt in my body? Yes. Big yes. Not a big deal…a possibility. As I got more comfortable and learned more about this new process, I understood that reacting to an experience was a choice. The clarity I developed helped me understand that I could choose to detach and not react to a situation. Observing myself rather than being in the drama of the emotion. Observing led me to acceptance. Accepting what I observed meant not judging…ahhh. Amazing! Big wow! Mostly not judging myself! YAY!
Exploring…what was comfortable and uncomfortable. Just being with it. The discomfort. I was able to watch my feelings surface. I realized that this process is a cycle…and, that emotions are impermanent… feelings are fleeting. They change. I gained a new perspective where I saw that emotions are moments, not places to be. Our emotions inform us, we don’t have to be held captive by past experiences that have created pain, guilt or shame.
Gratitude. Deep. So happy that the depression no longer held me under, scraping the bottom. I began slowly to see that as I opened myself to possibility I wasn’t as burdened by “what iffing?”, worrying. Feeling defensive, and making fear-based decisions could become history. And my gratitude grew as I became aware of these possibilities. It gave me such hope. My path to peace was wide open.
The more I focused on what was possible, what I wanted more of, my mood changed. And my heart opened. I was no longer closed off…I trusted that I could receive love.
My gratitude list had become a journal. I developed confidence as I wrote from my heart. My journal pages were my practice pages to express my desires. Exploring and experimenting with words to see and feel this new process. Not judging what I identified as wants and needs. And if I did write about justifying myself…I could see it. I saw clearly that there was no need to justify myself. Period!
More gratitude for my continued self-awareness. More open-hearted living. Feeling like I was worthy…
Knowing how to cultivate self-awareness through gratitude became my inspiration. Perspective, self-awareness and focusing on what we want more of are just a few gifts of gratitude. As we focus on the stars and not the darkness of the nighttime sky the light lifts us and offers awakening to make conscious choices, to trust your inner guidance…
As you move forward, consider using gratitude as a tool to enrich your life. I can be your guide and support system. The tools I use can become yours too.